Art Snapshot: Cold Cases, Forgeries, and Markets on the Mend

A 13-year-old forgery ring busted in France, a ten-year restitution debate resolved, and the 400-year-old mystery of the Medicis’ death

A 13-year-old forgery ring busted in France, a ten-year restitution debate resolved, and the 400-year-old mystery of the Medicis’ death solved. This week in art news: It’s about time.

1. Brits Fight for Arts Funding
British art-world heavyweights have begun a letter-writing campaign to the government protesting proposed budget cuts for arts funding. Famous patrons like Lord Stevenson argue that philanthropic gifts cannot replace government funds; gallery directors plead for a 10 percent, rather than 25 percent, cut.

Our take: Cutting funding for an industry that yields at least 2 euro for every 1 euro invested isn’t just desperate-it’s bad business.  
[The Guardian]

2. Medici Cold Case: Solved!
Scientists concluded that Francesco de Medici and his wife Bianca were not poisoned to death, as drama-loving art historians previously believed. After exhuming the bodies of the nearly 400-year-old art patrons in Florence, researchers confirmed the two died of malaria.

Our take: All this anthropological art news is fascinating, but it makes us wonder what Italian scientists could innovate if they weren’t picking at the bones of dead Renaissance figures all day.
[Discovery News]

3. Rem Koolhaas to Receive Golden Lion
The Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas-famous for creating buildings that evoke the sentiment, “The future is now”-will receive the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 12th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice.

Our take:
The man has been one of Time‘s 100 Most Influential People and he was knighted into an order established by Napoleon Bonaparte. A Golden Lion just seems logical.

4. Picasso and Chagall Forgery Ring Busted in France
Twelve men involved in a French forgery ring were imprisoned and fined up to $1.2 million for trafficking over 100 fake versions Picasso and Chagall paintings between 1997 and 2005. They approached buyers as down-on-their-luck heirs in need of fast cash.

Our take: Attention, Russia: This is what an art crime looks like! (Clarification: It’s not curating a show that includes Jesus with a Mickey Mouse head.)

5. Art World on the Move

More than six galleries will move to new, expanded locations this fall, including two of Chelsea’s most prominent galleries, Lombard-Fried and Zach Feuer. Gallerists cite a number of reasons for the geographical shuffle, like low commercial real estate prices, marketing, and increased appeal to artists.
Our take: Some say mid-priced galleries are still struggling and paying for their expansions out of savings. It’s unclear whether those investments will actually pay off.
6. Egon Schiele Restitution Dispute Resolved
After more than a decade of complicated legal action, the Leopold Museum in Vienna agreed to pay $19 million to buy an Egon Schiele painting from the heirs of a Jewish gallery owner from whom the Nazis stole the work in 1938. The painting was seized by the US government while on loan to MoMA in 1997 and held for the duration of the dispute.

Our take: The fact that the dispute took ten years to work out means the only ones really winning here are the organizations’ lawyers.

7. Christie’s Founds New Art Fair
Christie’s will sponsor a fair devoted to contemporary prints, editions, and photographs during the week of London’s Frieze Fair in October.  The fair will model itself after the annual Editions/Artists’ Book Fair in New York.

Our take:
Although the idea of yet another art fair is daunting, Chistie’s smartly identified a gap in Frieze’s programming and a good opportunity. 

8. Rodarte Collaborates with Catherine Opie on Art Book
The sisters behind the fashion label Rodarte have invited artists such as Catherine Opie and Gregory Krum to interpret their designs through photography for the book “Rodarte: Mondo Rodarte,” due out in November.

Our take: The “art-as-side-project” trend hits a new high. (Celebrity fashion lines: out. Fashion fine art projects: in.)

9. Aspen Gallerists Accused of Unethical Practices

Several Aspen art galleries were accused of unethical business practices, such as selling slightly altered imitations of work by established local artists signed with fake names and manipulating the market by selling works at a 70 percent discount. So far, the gallerists have been cleared of any wrongdoing; federal prosecutors declined to pursue the case, citing a lack of evidence.

Our take:
The story is a case study of the effects of pricing on the art market as a whole. What the gallerists are doing may not be illegal, but it’s definitely cheating.
[Aspen Daily News]

10. Art Market on the Rise
According to a survey released by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, art prices are rising in all sectors of the market except ceramics. Price increases in the $75,000-plus bracket doubled in the second quarter of 2010, compared with the first three months of the year.

Our take: Any market recovery is a good thing, but lower to mid-price segments of the market may still be looking at a rough road ahead.

Art Snapshot: Cold Cases, Forgeries, and Markets on the Mend